Hamilton the winner in sizzling Sevens weekend

Members of the Fiji sevens team who went on to win the tournament, receive a gift from Hamilton Mayor Andrew King during the civic welcome in Garden Place on Friday. Photo / Peter Tiffany
Members of the Fiji sevens team who went on to win the tournament, receive a gift from Hamilton Mayor Andrew King during the civic welcome in Garden Place on Friday. Photo / Peter Tiffany

Hamilton has made a huge positive impression in its debut on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit with confirmation the event will be back again next year.

FMG Stadium Waikato hosted the New Zealand Sevens for the first time over Saturday and Sunday, with a festival atmosphere at the venue and a busy central city marking a successful entry into the global rugby series.

The organisers are thrilled with the event's new home in Hamilton and have already locked in Auckland Anniversary Weekend 2019 do do it all again.

The announcement came after a triumphant Fijian side – cheered on by a capacity crowd – lifted the HSBC NZ Sevens trophy in victory, winning 24-17 against South Africa at the stadium on Sunday evening.

HSBC NZ Sevens general manager Steve Dunbar said confirmation of the dates – January 26 and 27, 2019 – was the icing on the cake after a fun-filled two-day tournament with capacity crowds loving the fast-paced rugby action and new-look tournament.

"It's been a fantastic couple of days here in Hamilton and all the hundreds of volunteers and staff who worked together to put on this spectacle of rugby and entertainment can be very proud.

More than 20,000 people have had a magic couple of days with their friends and family and there's clearly an appetite for an international sevens tournament in New Zealand.

"We will be back."

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said the city and the team responsible for running FMG Stadium had again proven the city delivers world-class events.

"We had a great launch event on Friday evening in Garden Place, and a lot of the hospitality businesses and retailers have got behind the event as well," King said

"As a city, I think we have delivered a great event and a great weekend, and I think it will be even better in 2019," he said.

"Hundreds of staff and volunteers helped make this all possible, and I want to acknowledge their contributions as well: we couldn't have done it without them."

Hamilton's role as host city for the New Zealand leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was secured through a partnership involving events company 37 South, New Zealand Rugby and Hamilton City Council, which owns and operates FMG Stadium Waikato through its H3 division.

37 South managing director and co-promoter Dallas Fisher said he was proud of his home city for hosting an incredible event for New Zealand.

"We've always known we could hold global events like this here, and this weekend we've proven it. A full stadium chanting, dancing and singing is something I'll never forget. The fact we get to do it all again next year tops it all off."

Many fans wore elaborate costumes and fancy dress for the weekend, and brought a positive energy and good behaviour to the stadium.

A large percentage of the patrons attending the event were from outside the Waikato region, which Mayor King said was a firm "vote of confidence" in Hamilton.

Waikato police praised the good-natured crowd and said Saturday night in town had also been fairly trouble free.

Detective Inspector Hywel Jones said there had been four arrests and seven evictions on Sunday.

"It's been a very well-run event from our point of view and we're very pleased with the crowd."

Dunbar said the tournament was a mix of classic Sevens with colourful costumes and dancing in the aisles, and added new flavours with an entertainment zone and family fun fair.

"The fans and teams have loved it and the planning starts now for Auckland Anniversary Weekend in 2019," Dunbar said.

On-sale dates for tickets for 2019 will be released on sevens.co.nz in due course.

- Hamilton News

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